In the Shadow of the Jew Suss

Published: March 10th 2010

Screen grab from "Jew Suss"

Writer/director Felix Moeller's well-researched and thought provoking documentary, about the legacy of Nazi-propaganda filmmaker Viet Harlan, approaches his controversial subject through the eyes of Harlan's surviving family members. Veit Harlan started his career as an actor before turning to filmmaking, whereupon he was enlisted by the Third Reich to create anti-Semitic propaganda films--twenty in total--the most notorious of which is Jew Suss (1940).




The film was mandatory viewing for SS officers. Today its DVD is prohibited in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria. Upon the fall of the Third Reich, Jew Suss served as the film that would cause Harlan to be prosecuted twice for crimes against humanity, although he was acquitted in both trials. Harlan's children and grandchildren carry the burden of their dark legacy with life choices and attitudes that voluntarily and involuntarily address their patriarch's sins.




It's noteworthy that Viet's oldest son Thomas became a Nazi-hunter in Poland and political activist, and that his niece Christiane married Jewish director Stanley Kubrick after acting in Paths of Glory. Harlan: In the Shadow of the Jew Suss is an engaging self-reflexive examination of a family grappling with, or refusing to fully acknowledge, something beyond anyone's ability to fully comprehend. Moeller's Rashamon-like approach to the family's biographies provides many layers of of emotional and social context.


Not Rated. 100 mins. (B+) (Four Stars)



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